Schroder's shogun picks up his futon and walks

CITY DIARY
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The Independent Online
The shogun of foreign investors in Japan has picked up his futon and walked. After 22 years with Schroder, Ed Merner, the amiable American fund manager with the piercing blue eyes, has left to pursue his career with Atlantis, an investment boutique, claiming the merchant bank has become too large for him.

Mr Merner, fiftysomethingish, is one of the merry band that went to the Orient in the Seventies to teach English and ended up in investment. Now head of Schroder's Japan Growth Fund and its Japanese Smaller Companies unit trust (until the end of this month) he built up a formidable reputation among the Japanese as Mr Long Term - and with it the tag of most successful foreigner (yes, the film will star Richard Chamberlain).

Suggestions that Mr Merner's departure will clobber the value of Schroder's funds were quickly denied yesterday, with the merchant bank adopting the "he's one of a team'' defence. Andrew Rose takes over at the unit trust with Jonathan Bolton taking the reigns of the growth fund.

Certainly there has been no shortage of opportunities for fund managers of late. The American houses are said to be offering to raid Fort Knox for experienced people, with one US bank paying handsomly for the services of a 73-year-old.

Barry Bateman, the former Unit Trust Association chairman who described the Government's wider share ownership drive as ''misguided as the poll tax '' is in hot water again. Apparently oblivious to the accepted meaning of the overworked euphemism, the chairman of Fidelity has been winging off memos about tonight's leaving bash for colleague Mary Blair with the honest observation that "she is off to spend more time with her family.'' Ms Blair has three children.

"When I leave I'll tell him I'm going to be a strippergram,'' snaps a female colleague.

It is with trepidation that the London Guildhall University launches its new MBA programme - featuring that all-important topic, financial services regulation.

"You can state that Nick Leeson, the rogue trader responsible for the fall of Barings, was formerly a banking student at London Guildhall University,'' witter the academics. "Although, of course, this programme was not designed in reaction to what Mr Leeson did.''

Perish the thought.

John Kemp-Welch, the former Cazenove fellow who has gone to great lengths to hold back the forces of nature at the Stock Exchange, must be horrified. His old firm - the emodiment of the City lore that states "all shoes have laces and all cars are black'' - are now running two M reg vehicles, one a violent red and the other a sickening blue. There is better news on the footwear front, though. Not one pair of shoes emerging from the firm recently were slip-ons, according to our man in a ditch in Tokenhouse Yard.

Flamboyant balloon pioneer Richard Branson has taken the precaution of securing the services of a catastrophe reinsurer for his epic round- the-world jaunt. Mathew Harding (above), the millionaire behind the renaissance of Chelsea Football Club and chairman of the Benfield Group, is joining the Virgin team as "project patron and official spokesman'' with special responsibility for picking up the pieces if it all goes horribly wrong. "The insurance cover is extensive, '' admitted Mr Harding, describing the arrangements as an industry challenge.

"Richard approached me before Christmas and I accepted on a personal basis, '' said Mr Harding. "He wanted a friendly face on the team.'' Benfield will also make a contribution to the record attempt. However, suggestions that a grateful Mr Branson will respond by financing the completion of Chelsea's ground are quickly scotched. "We have not discussed it,'' said Mr Harding.

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